I recently tried one of those newly popular “escape room” attractions and let’s just say Houdini I am not.
If you enjoy puzzles, thinking on your feet and working with others under pressure, you will have a thrilling time.
With its hidden clues and riddles to solve, being in an escape room is like playing a real-life version of “Scooby-Doo,” except at the end you are not unmasking the caretaker as the villain who dressed up as a ghost to scare those damn meddling kids away.
For those unfamiliar with escape rooms, here’s the concept: You are locked in a room with your teammates (in my case, three friends) filled with props, decorations and furniture.
You scour the room for clues, which can take the form of scraps of paper with numbers or words, which in turn send you to other clues, and so on.
I don’t want to give too much away about the specifics since it would spoil some of the fun, but the room where we played in Orlando, Fla., featured several locked cabinets and trunks.
Finding the key (or the combinations for the locks) required using math, looking at messages that could only be seen under a black light, and relying on our smarts to solve problems.
You have to think creatively – and fast.
There are different themes for each room. In my case, my friends and I played “Classified.” The room had a Middle Eastern feel to the décor.
(My wife and younger son and I recently played at a different escape room in the Poconos and in that one the premise was we awoke to find ourselves locked in a cabin in the woods. That room featured a bearskin rug and deer’s head on the wall.)
In the “Classified” room, the orientation video described our team as being covertly inserted into hostile territory. We had 60 minutes to deduce the time, date and place of a terrorist attack.
Failure on our part meant the terrorist would win.
We had three “free” clues, that is, clues that would be given to us and not count against our time. For every additional clue given, we would have minutes added to our time.
If you ever played the highly addictive computer game “Myst” from years ago, you will have an idea of how immersed you can get into an escape room. Secret passageways, enticing clues and cryptic messages were all there.
And much like the hit TV series “24,” there was a monitor with a countdown clock showing how much time we had left.
As we progressed and the time ticked away, we grew more frenetic.
“Go over there!”
“Where is the flashlight?!”
“What was that clue again?!”
We had three of the four elements solved: The date, the place and the hour of the attack but we could not determine the minutes after the hour.
My heart was pounding. The mission was at stake!
In the end, we came really, really close but we failed.
Jack Bauer would have disowned us, but we had a helluva good time!
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